Chapter 77. Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday (1983)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a huge spaceship heading towards Earth. The inhabitants appear to come from different periods in Earth’s history, providing entertainment for three amphibious Urbankans called Enlightenment, Persuasion and the imperious Monarch. Given the freedom to explore the ship, the Doctor and his friends begin to understand the terrifying scale of Monarch’s ambitions…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Ship of Mystery
  • 2. A Meeting with Monarch
  • 3. The Transformation
  • 4. The Invaders
  • 5. The Explorers
  • 6. The Android
  • 7. The Convert
  • 8. Tegan’s Gamble
  • 9. Death Warrant
  • 10. Reprieved
  • 11. Riot!
  • 12. Spacewalk

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terence Dudley’s scripts for the 1982 serial. When Dicks said that scriptwriters cottoned on that they could write the books and get all the money, I suspect this is who he was specifically referring to – see The King’s Demons. This followed Castrovalva on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Terrance gets his first go at this TARDIS crew, so we get decent descriptions of them all: Nyssa is ‘an attractive-looking girl with brown hair and an aristocratic, somewhat haughty air’; once again, Adric is ‘a smallish, round-faced youth wearing a yellow tunic’; the Doctor’s ‘third, least willing companion [is] an ‘Australian air-hostess called Tegan Jovanka’ who is said to be ‘exceptionally forceful, even for an Australian’; and the new Doctor, who we’re told is now in his fifth incarnation, is a ‘rather slight, fair-haired young man with a pleasant, open face’ (entirely coincidentally a cricket pun there – Dicks had no idea  it was a term for how a cricketer grips the bat!). Each of the companions gets a one-line origin summary.

Observing a device that can reduce matter, Nyssa recalls that it’s a favoured method of the Master and was the way he murdered Tegan’s aunt. As the Doctor tells Monarch that only he can operate the TARDIS, it dematerialises under Tegan’s control, rather undermining his boast. Nyssa’s fainting cliffhanger that leads into the next story is omitted. 

Cover: An almost competent photo montage of Stratford Johns as Monarch with Peter Davison as the Doctor. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover is just a noble portrait of Monarch with a suggestion of his chamber lightly etched into the background. 

Final Analysis: By this point in time, TARDIS companions exist solely to bicker and Terrance Dicks relishes the opportunity to show the previously impish Adric as an utter brat. Tegan’s brashness is accentuated too, which rather underlines how empty and bland Nyssa is. We’re even told that she manages to save the Doctor from execution because she’s ‘ standing unnoticed in the background, ignored because nobody considered her a threat’. Four to Doomsday is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite story, or indeed anyone’s favourite book; it does the job, nothing more.

Chapter 76. Doctor Who – Castrovalva (1983)

Synopsis: The Doctor is struggling after a particularly distressing regeneration. He seeks rest deep within the TARDIS, but an external force sends the time machine racing towards the Big Bang. A narrow escape brings the travellers to the quiet town of Castrovalva. The locals are friendly and offer the Doctor room to recuperate. But there’s something strange about the town; how can the local chemist be in four places at once? Who is exploiting the Doctor’s weakened state and for what purpose? And where is Adric?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Escape from Earth
  • 2. Towards Zero
  • 3. Destination: Event One
  • 4. Russian Roulette
  • 5.. Jettisoned
  • 6. The Quest for Castrovalva
  • 7. Within the Walls
  • 8. The Dark Reflection
  • 9. The Occlusion Closes In
  • 10. The Clue of the Chronicle
  • 11. The World through the Eyes of Shardovan
  • 12. The Web is Broken

Background: Christopher H.Bidmead adapts his own scripts for the 1982 serial.

Notes: We’re told that the ‘apocalyptic events’ of Logopilis led to the previous and future Doctors overlapping in the form of the Watcher. We’re drawn to consider the new Doctor’s ‘strangely smooth and vacant face’, while  Adric has a ‘strange smile and wicked black button eyes’ and Nyssa possesses ‘a remote, aristocratic quality that was somehow unEarthly’. Based on the scant hours he’s spent there, Adric considers Earth to be a ‘planet of fools and bullies’. We’re reminded of Adric’s former home on the starliner on Alzarius. Tegan is said to have ‘once been lost in that maze of white corridors during her involuntary first trip in the TARDIS’… which took place… yesterday? She also utters the mild expletive ‘strewth’ a couple of times.

Nyssa tries to explain recursion to Tegan by discussing family trees (and Tegan feels awkward as she realises Nyssa’s family and everyone she knows has been wiped out by the Master). The Doctor’s new coat is ‘a cream coloured garment that was too summery to be a morning coat but too long to be a sports jacket’. As Tegan and Nyssa look at the scanner to see the Master waving at them, they can see Adric behind him, trapped in the electronic web. The TARDIS has a surgery and a trolley laden with medical supplies rolls out of it towards the Doctor during the Event One incident.

Apparently, ‘the Gallifreyan temperament tends to see the world from the other person’s point of view’, so the Doctor feels empathy for a roast pig. There’s also an ‘official Time-Lord strategy’ that’s taught to small children that… :

… in circumstances of near-defeat you take stock of the forces that are working on your behalf, your assets, and then separately assess the forces working against you, your liabilities. This leads directly to the next stage: devising a logical plan that will increase the former and diminish the latter. 

The Doctor views this ‘arid, abstract and artificial’ edict as ‘typically Gallifreyan’ – he prefers ‘blind panic’. He is said to be ‘nearly eight hundred’ years old, while Castrovalva was created by the Master as a trap 500 years ago. So was this created in the Master’s distant past and he’s only just come back to it? Did he set it up and then jump forward 500 years? Did he play at Portreeve for half a millennium while Adric was held in stasis in the electronic web?! (Or is this just not actually true and he knocked it up yesterday in between wrestling with the Doctor on a gantry and choosing a nice hat for his Portreeve cosplay?). On the jog back to the TARDIS, Adric is ‘still a little pallid after his long ordeal’ – a real-world cheeky dig at actor Matthew Waterhouse’s overindulgence in the bar the night before the filming of that sequence for TV. The Doctor opts not to dampen Tegan’s enthusiasm by telling her she didn’t land the TARDIS after all and it was all Adric’s doing.

Cover: Somebody clearly resents being made to work on these as the cover design is woefully lazy – a photo of a smiling Peter Davison against a starfield backdrop. Alister Pearson’s reprint cover from 1991 is predictably better, to be fair, with an almost identical picture of Davison (which makes him look old) next to a beautifully realised, geometrically impossible walkway from the Castrovalva town square.

Final Analysis: ‘Euclidian topology’? Really, Bidmead? We’ve come a long way since the days of writing these books for eager seven-year-olds, but there really is no concession for the child reader here. It all fits together rather neatly, especially the way so much of the dialogue is there to underline the theme of recursion, but as with Logopolis, there’s also the suspicion that the author’s making himself a little too visible in the text by showing off.

Chapter 71. Doctor Who – Full Circle (1982)

Synopsis: The TARDIS falls into another universe – Espace – and lands on Alzarius, a planet with the exact same coordinates as Gallifrey, except in negative. They meet a young boy called Adric and discover a small and terrified community housed in an ancient spaceship. The people of Alzarius are preparing for a cataclysmic event called ‘Mistfall’ when the air becomes unbreathable and strange creatures emerge from the marshes. The marsh creatures lead the Doctor to uncover a secret that has been hidden for generations.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. ‘I Have Lost Control of the TARDIS’
  • 2. ‘I’m an Elite’
  • 3. ‘Master – Alert’
  • 4. ‘We’re Taking Over Your Ship’
  • 5. ‘We Don’t Know What’s Out There’
  • 6. ‘You Will Answer the Questions, Doctor’
  • 7. ‘A Little Patience Goes a Long Way’
  • 8. ‘I Am Beginning Surgery’
  • 9. ‘One Secret Our Ancestors Kept for Themselves’
  • 10. ‘We’ve Come Full Circle’
  • 11. ‘We Cannot Return to Teradon’
  • 12. ‘We’re Trapped’

Background: Andrew Smith adapts his own scripts from the 1980 story. At just 20 years old at the time, Andrew remains the youngest author of a Target novel.

Notes: A prologue tells of the arrival to Alzarius of the original inhabitants of the Terradon starliner, the demise of Commander Yakob Lorenzil and the hostile environment that greets the survivors of the crash, led by Sub-Commander Damyen Fenrik. This might feel like a spoiler until the exact moment that we realise it’s a clever deception. There’s an interlude with the full verses of a poem by First Decider Yanek Pitrus, a ‘tenth generation starliner’, setting out the legends of mistfall. 

First Decider Exmon Draith is accompanied by Decider Ragen Nefred and Decider Jaynis Garif. After Draith dies, Halrin Login is elevated to Decider level. As he takes on the role of First Decider, Nefred connects his brain to the System Files, which monitor the well-being of all Deciders; this is how Nefred confirms that Draith has died, as well as becoming exposed to the starliner’s darkest secret.

Adric and Varsh lost their parents when they were young; they were killed in a forest fire and the boys were taken in by family friends. Varsh is three-and-a-half years Adric’s senior. As this is Adric’s introduction (despite featuring in four novels by now), his creator gives us the best insight yet into who he is:

Adric’s diminutive stature and his youth belied the fact that he had one of the keenest intelligences on the starliner, an intelligence marred only by the occasional lapse into the naive mannerisms of the juvenile. 

Adric only lets go of Draith because he panics after a hand clasps his ankle underneath the marsh water. The other Outlers are here named Refnal, Gulner, Hektir and Yenik. 

As with all authors showing off their creations, Andrew Smith presents the giant Marshmen as much more impressive than TV would allow:

They flexed their scaly arms, allowed their mouths, dribbling with hungry saliva, to gape. Scaly, metallic-looking eyelids slid back over black evil eyeballs, which then scanned the surroundings. They started climbing from the marsh, mud slithering down their tall, horrible frames, heavy clawed feet finding a secure hold in the soil by the marsh. 

The Marshchild follows the Doctor onto the starliner and the Doctor takes it under his wing when he protects it from a frightened mob (on TV, he’s knocked out and the child is taken away screaming). The Doctor recalls once failing to save a young girl from a ‘witch trial’ in 17th-Century England and vows not to allow the Marshchild to suffer a similar fate. 

There is a pitch-black ‘spatio-temporal void’ between the TARDIS’s inner and outer doors! Romana utters a mild swearword (‘damn’, which is still the naughtiest word a series regular has said so far!). The Doctor’s mission to collect Romana and the broken K9 is interrupted by clusters of spiders swarming over him (shudder!). The Marshmen enjoy a level of shared minds and the brief involvement of Romana allows them insight into the starliner citizens. The ‘people of the marsh’ see themselves as guardians of the planet, ‘to serve and to protect nature’ from the alien technology of the starliners, who they consider ‘non-people; but the Marsh leader still pauses to lament the deaths they have caused: as they return to the marsh, he asks his brethren ‘… why does the maintaining of beauty always have to require the taking of lives? It is so very sad.’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a trio of Marshmen emerging from the mists. Unkind observers have noted that there appear to be pockets on the creature’s chest.

Final Analysis: This is how to do it! The third of four consecutive stories to be adapted by their original authors, Andrew Smith combines mythology and SF in an exercise in world-building that feels lived in and real. His version of the Doctor is, as with Warriors’ Gate, closer to the Fourth Doctor we recognise than the more sombre version of season 18, cracking jokes that reveal the Doctor as equally pompous and contemptuous towards assumed authority – but still with the righteous fury when confronted with the experiments on the Marshchild, or touching compassion for Tylos when he finds his body, killed during the Marshmen attack:

The Doctor knelt beside the boy. They had never spoken, yet he felt a sense of real loss. The taking of life was always to be mourned, the taking of a young life even more so.  

There are some solid horror elements – particularly the emergence of the Marshmen, the spiders hatching from the river fruit, Dexeter’s murder at the hands of the defiant Marshchild and Romana’s possession. Perhaps because he was a teenager himself when he wrote the TV scripts, Smith also presents Adric sympathetically, not blind to his awkward, precocious adolescence, but recognising how the boy feels he doesn’t fit in with either the inhabitants of the starliner or the Outlers; like many of the viewers, he identifies with the ‘otherness’ of the Doctor and Romana. We all love it when a novel presents new material or deeper insights into the characters, but this achieves a new high for the range.

Chapter 57. Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll (1980)

Synopsis: On the marshy moon of Delta Three, a methane refinery plant squats in the murky swamp. The small service staff have only minimal contact with the Swampies – primitive green natives whose village is nearby. The arrival of gun-runner Rohm Dutt on the planetoid coincides with that of the Doctor and Romana, still hunting for the Key to Time. Soon, the new arrivals will be forced into an uneasy partnership as they face the terrifying power of the Swampies’ god, Kroll.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Swamp
  • 2. The Gun-Runner
  • 3. The Sacrifice
  • 4. The Tunnel
  • 5. The Thing in the Lake
  • 6. The Attack
  • 7. The End of Harg
  • 8. The Storm
  • 9. Escape Through the Swamps
  • 10. The Rocket
  • 11. Countdown
  • 12. The Power of Kroll
  • Epilogue

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s scripts from 1978. This followed The Androids of Tara on TV, so this is the first time that three stories are released consecutively.

Notes: In the prologue (and with a lovely opening line: ‘Deep beneath the waters of the immense lagoon, Kroll slept’), we learn that Kroll has slept for hundreds of years, drawing power and growing in size due to swallowing whatever it was that the Key to Time had been disguised as. Then the men in rockets land on the planet and set up their rigs, which awakens the beast below the lagoon. In chapter 1, we’re told more about the Sons of Earth, an environmental pressure group concerned that the overpopulation of Earth is happening again on Delta Magna, and also regret over the displacement of the Swampies from their original home on Delta Magna to this moon (named here as Delta Three). Romana is again called a Time Lady and she’s wearing a bright orange tunic as well as boots to guard against the mud. We’re once more reminded of the mission to find the segments of the Key to Time.

Unusually for this kind of story, we’re told that Thawn’s crew are ‘all expert at their jobs and they worked well together, an efficient team’. Thawn tells Fenner that he’s seen Rohm Dutt on Delta Magna many times, which is how he knows the Doctor isn’t him. The roles of the named Swampies are clarified, so in addition to the chief, Ranquin, we have the war-chief, Varlik, and Skart is the High Priest, rather than just a part-time rubbish Kroll impersonator. Rohm Dutt thinks Romana might be a government spy. When the deception over the monster in the sacrifice is exposed, Romana is ‘disgusted with herself for being so terrified by such a simple device’. Significantly, when Thawn calls the Sons of Earth ‘fanatics’, Dugeen says ‘We are not fanatics’ (on TV, it’s ‘they’), so he’s not just sympathetic to the Sons of Earth’s cause, he is one of them. After he’s salvaged the Key to Time segment and saved the day, the Doctor suggests to Fenner that he should share his food stocks with the Swampie survivors.

Cover: It’s not immediately obvious but this is a game-changing cover by Andrew Skilleter. A bemused Doctor smirks as Kroll thrashes behind him in the swamp, but it’s believed that this is the first cover to take reference from a screenshot from the episode itself instead of a publicity still (it’s the frame where the Doctor escapes Kroll’s tentacles and grabs the Key to Time segment). The back-of-book text included another promotional block: ‘THE POWER OF KROLL is a novel in the Key To Time Sequence. Also available THE RIBOS OPERATION, THE STONES OF BLOOD and THE ANDROIDS OF TARA. Coming soon: THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR’. Hmm – one story is conspicuous by its absence (and will be for over thirty years!).

Final Analysis: So very close to the end of this rather dry period for the books. Dicks once again translates the TV story onto the pages and makes it look easy, but he’s working from one of Robert Holmes’ worst scripts so there’s very little to work with. Dicks manages to add a little socio-economic commentary, but I can’t help feeling Malcolm Hulke would have done something more with this, had he still been around. We only have to wait a few years to see Holmes’ second attempt at the same story, for the fifth Doctor’s finale, and wait to see what Terrance Dicks does with that. Until then, we just have that final segment to find in the next book…

Prologue – The Journey Begins

As a child, I was a frequent visitor to my local library. It was the boundary for the furthest point I was allowed to walk unaccompanied, it was a meeting place for friends – and it was the cause of more than one row with my best friend, who had a habit of snatching books out of my hand and rushing to sign them out before I could protest. They were hardback books with white spines that displayed the title and author in thick, black letters. The covers were laminated with plastic sheeting that was often tatty or torn and they had the same four words at the start of each title: ‘Doctor Who and the…’. Terrance Dicks wrote many of them, but there were others by such authors as Malcolm Hulke, David Whitaker and Gerry Davis. Some of them had illustrations inside of people looking shocked in a variety of scientific bases and weird alien landscapes. I had a real fascination for the covers, which were often montages of black-and-white portraits against brightly coloured galaxies made of bubbles.

Many Doctor Who fans who grew up in the 70s and 80s will recognise the descriptions here. Although the hardbacks were published by WH Allen, the paperback editions were released by their sub-brand Target. By the time I was nine years old, and recognising that an eagerness for reading should be encouraged, my parents bought me my first Target books of my own: Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus, Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, and Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. Throughout the 1980s, I added to my collection at Christmas and birthdays, or if I’d saved up enough pocketmoney, and many of my own editions were bought from a two-storey bookshop on Renshaw Street, Liverpool. That’s where I bought Doctor Who and the Zarbi, Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons and many, many more…

Despite an enthusiasm for the stories and easy access to other bookshops, I never quite managed to collect the set. Doctor Who had been huge in 1984, but just a year later, it was put on hold for 18 months and even though it limped on for four more years, it wasn’t the communal interest it had once been. By the early 90s, Doctor Who was over and my friends were discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation or looking back to other shows such as Blake’s 7, The Avengers or Gerry Anderson’s puppet series. 

In this digital age, where space is limited and bookshelves store DVDs instead, it’s been a real blessing to stumble across someone who has scanned every one of the Doctor Who books, including the covers and illustrations, and made them available in an eBook-friendly format. There are also audiobooks of many of the books, read by the actors who starred in the TV originals. So now, equipped with a complete set of Target books for the first time, I’m ready to start a pilgrimage through time and space.

Care to join me? This amazing wiki guide lists all the books in order of publication with loads of extra information. https://tardis.fandom.com/wiki/Target_Books